Pakistan’s devastating floods endanger Mohenjo-daro’s world heritage tag

ISLAMABAD : In flood-stricken Pakistan where an unprecedented monsoon season has killed hundreds of people, the rains now threaten a famed archeological site dating back 4,500 years, the site’s chief official said on Tuesday. The ruins of Mohenjo-daro — located in southern Sindh province near the Indus River and a Unesco World Heritage Site — are considered among the best preserved urban settlements in South Asia. They were discovered in 1922 and to this day, mystery surrounds the disappearance of its civilisation, which coincided with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The swelling waters of the Indus, a major river in this part of the world, have wreaked havoc as heavy rains and massive flooding unleashed devastation across much of Pakistan. At least 1,325 people have been killed and millions have lost their homes in the surging waters, with many experts blaming the unusually heavy monsoon rains on climate change. The flooding has not directly hit Mohenjo-daro but the record-breaking rains have inflicted damage on the ruins of the ancient city, said Ahsan Abbasi, the site’s curator. “Several big walls, which were built nearly 5,000 years ago, have collapsed because of the monsoon rains,” he said. He said dozens of construction workers under the supervision of archaeologists have started the repair work. Abbasi did not give an estimated cost of the damages at Mohenjo-daro.
Pakistan’s department of archaeology has called for urgent attention towards conservation and restoration work at Mohenjo-daro, apprehending that the site may be removedfrom the world heritage list if such work was not carried out, media reports said. The site’s landmark “Buddhist stupa” — a large hemispherical structure associated with worship, meditation and burial — remains intact, Abbasi said. But the downpour has damaged some outer walls and also some larger walls separating individual rooms or chambers. Abbasi said the civilisation at Mohenjo-daro, also known as “Mound of the Dead” in the local Sindhi language, built an elaborate drainage system, which has been critical in flooding in the past.
Thoughthe floods have touched all of Pakistan, the Sindh province has been among the worst hit. On Monday, army engineers made a second cut into an embankment at Lake Manacher, Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake, to release rising waters in hopes of saving the nearby city of Sehwan from flooding. The water from the lake has already inundated dozens of nearby villages, forcing hundreds of families to leave their mudbrick homes in a hurry, many fleeing in panic.

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